As we ride our bikes alone, week after week, the parameters have changed. We are chiselling ourselves into a different shape.
We are lockdown fit.
Whatever that is.
The measure of form is still in the data but the context is missing. We have regular riding buddies who we know well – too well for the purposes of a pandemic – and we no longer have them as a reference point. Distance, social or otherwise, leaves us (blissfully?) unaware of how they’re riding.
And, by how association, how we’re riding.
We battle only the weather, the road, and our own minds. Sometimes we decide before we leave the house how we’re riding. Whether you think you’re riding well, or riding badly, you’re right, as Henry Ford might have said had he got over this vulgar obsession with cars and embraced the ol’ push iron.
If you leave the house, think you’re riding badly, and then find that Steve, or Geoffrey, or whatever cycling buddies are called these days is hanging off the back of your little group, tongue-lolling, you’ve miraculously found a bit of form.
As long as he’s the one gasping for breath and licking stem you feel a bit perky.
It’s like magic.
Alas, for weeks now, there has been no yardstick. No lithe young whipper-snapper up the road to offer a forlorn target, and no rank amateur behind to keep you honest. Just you, and your breath, and a misty image of everyone you’ve ever ridden a bike with crushing it on Zwift.
I joke, of course; riding alone, when it’s good, is a truly lovely experience. A chance to nudge the revs up to the edge of your range and just hold it, hard but sustainable, and empty the tank. Nothing but the faint click of a clean chain and some light birdsong for company.
You can follow your nose.
You can stop roadside and sit in the grass for five minutes.
It’s full of little pleasures.
The reckoning will come post-lockdown when the cat and mouse-ing resumes. Several (?) months of no cyclist missing a single turn because it’s always been their turn. Of no hiding in the wheels in the wind. No latching on up the climbs. Solo miles have chipped away at the old cyclist to reveal a new, different, better, worse one.
Everyone will be in shape – lockdown shape – without a clue what that means, because it’ll all be relative again.